Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains

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The History Press, 2005 - History - 160 pages
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This collection of intertwined essays results from writer George Ellison’s thirty-year fascination with Western North Carolina and its Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. Gathered into three broad sections—Natural History, Cherokees and Mountaineers—these insightful essays provide a wealth of historic detail and offer a unique perspective on the rich cultural heritage of this stunning and oft-misunderstood part of the country. Through a diverse cast of characters including early explorers and European plant hunters, a Cherokee shaman or two, weather sharps, a hermit, a moonshiner, several writers of note, ornithologists and naturalists, we hear stories in a distinctly Appalachian tone and gain an understanding of mountain life and lore. We develop a new language fit for mountain life, speaking of balds, knobs, gaps, seeps, springheads and shoals, and begin to understand the roots of the names Crooked Arm, Deeplow Gap and the Boogerman Trail. We see the world through the eyes of the ancient Cherokees, for whom the Nantahala Gorge, for example, was a “chasm of horrors” associated with the “uktena,” a mythic serpent from the dreaded Under World. From his home in a 46-acre cove surrounded on three sides by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and from a studio he shares with his watercolorist wife, Elizabeth, in Bryson City, George Ellison writes and lectures about the natural and human history of Western North Carolina. His work appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Smoky Mountain News, and Chinquapin: The Newsletter of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.
  

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Contents

I
7
II
11
III
45
IV
85
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

George and Elizabeth Ellison moved with their children to Western North Carolina in 1973. George's office is situated at Elizabeth Ellison Watercolors, a gallery-studio his wife-the noted papermaker and watercolorist who executed the cover illustration for Mountain Passages-operates on the town square in Bryson City. Since 1976, they have made their home in a forty-six-acre cove surrounded on three sides by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. George writes and lectures about the natural and human history of Western North Carolina. His "Nature Journal" column, illustrated by Elizabeth, appears every other week in the Asheville Citizen-Times, and his "Botanical Excursions" column is published quarterly in Chinquapin: The Newsletter of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. For many years, George has served as a field trip leader for bird, wildflower and fern identification workshops offered by the Native Plant Conference sponsored by Western Carolina University, the North Carolina Arboretum, Southwestern Community College and the Smoky Mountain Field School, as administered by the University of Tennessee for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. George wrote the biographical introductions for the reissues of two Southern Appalachian classics: Horace Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders (University of Tennessee Press, 1976) and James Mooney's History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (Historical Images, 1992). Since 1990, he has conducted a number of Elderhostel programs at various institutions about either Cherokee or white mountaineer history and culture.

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